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Special Edition

December 28, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF Hits Prime Hamas Targets - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The initial Israel Air Force strike hit 50 targets including Hamas bases, training camps, headquarters and offices.
    A second wave struck at 60 targets, including underground Kassam rocket launchers - placed inside bunkers and missile silos - that had been fitted with timers.
    Targets included the Hamas headquarters and training camp in Tel Zatar; a Hamas operations center and armory in Gaza City; the Hamas police academy, which was bombed during a graduation ceremony, killing 70-80 people; training camps in southern and central Gaza; the former office of Yasser Arafat in Gaza City that is now used by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh; and the Izzadin Kassam Brigades headquarters in northern Gaza.

Not Just Another "Surgical Strike" in Gaza - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's opening salvo on Saturday was not merely another "surgical" operation or pinpoint strike. This is the harshest IDF assault on Gaza since the Six-Day War in 1967.
    Palestinian sources in Gaza report that 40 targets were destroyed in a span of three to five minutes.
    See also Video: Israel Air Force Attacks Underground Rocket Launching Pad in Residential Area (Israel Air Force)
    See also Aerial Photographs of Hamas Targets (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Report: Hizbullah Will Not Join Hamas in Fighting Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    Hizbullah will not join Hamas in fighting Israel and will not open a second front against it in the current conflict, the London-based Al-Hayat quoted a Hizbullah source as saying Sunday.
    The source explained that Hizbullah was not interested in a conflict with Israel at this time.

Israeli Disinformation Took Hamas by Surprise - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    According to defense officials, an Israeli disinformation effort took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties.
    The Israeli cabinet met on Wednesday for a five-hour discussion about the operation, at the end of which the ministers unanimously voted in favor of the strike.
    In parallel, it was announced that Prime Minister Olmert would hold more deliberations on Sunday.
    "Hamas evacuated all its headquarters personnel after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday," one defense official said, "but the organization sent its people back in when they heard that everything was put on hold until Sunday."

Israeli Defense Minister: Would U.S. Accept Ceasefire with Al-Qaeda? (FOX News)
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told FOX News on Saturday: "For us to be asked to have a ceasefire with Hamas is like asking you [the U.S.] to have a ceasefire with al-Qaeda....It's something we cannot really accept."

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  • Israel Retaliates for Gaza Rocket Fire - Samuel Sockol
    Israeli planes pounded Hamas installations across the Gaza Strip on Saturday in retaliation for rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. At least 225 Palestinians were killed and more than 400 wounded. Palestinians in Gaza had fired more than 60 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel on Wednesday and more than 80 on Thursday, sowing fear in Israeli towns. (Washington Post)
  • Rice: U.S. Holds Hamas Responsible for Gaza Violence
    The United States holds Hamas "responsible" for the renewal of deadly violence in Gaza after the Islamist group broke its ceasefire with Israel, Secretary of State Rice said Saturday. "We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there." The six-month ceasefire, which Hamas said last week it would not renew, "must be restored immediately and fully respected," she said. On the day the truce expired, she warned that renewed violence against Israel by Hamas would only hurt the Palestinians, and that the movement "needs to concentrate on turning away from violence." (AFP)
        See also White House Puts Onus on Hamas to End Escalation of Violence - Robert Pear
    The Bush administration issued blistering criticism of Hamas on Saturday, saying the group had provoked Israel's airstrikes on Gaza by firing rockets into southern Israel. Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said that Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, was responsible for the outbreak of violence and called its rocket attacks "completely unacceptable. These people are nothing but thugs," he said. "Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas."
        During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama made statements that sounded similar to those issued by the Bush administration on Saturday. "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that," Mr. Obama said in July. "And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." (New York Times)
        See also Britain and U.S. Refuse to Demand End to Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza - Nicola Smith (Times-UK)
  • UN Security Council Calls on Israel, Palestinians to Halt Violence - Purnell Murdock
    The UN Security Council Sunday called for an immediate halt to all violence in Gaza amid ongoing Israeli airstrikes that followed days of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants. (VOA News)
        See also Israel Defends Gaza Operation to UN - Jonny Paul
    Israeli UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev on Saturday defended Israel's decision to embark on a military operation in Gaza to put an end to Palestinian rocket attacks. In an urgent letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the UN Security Council, Shalev wrote that Hamas "holds the sole responsibility for the latest events." Israel "has exhausted all means and efforts to reach and maintain quiet and to respect the state of calm....No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian population without taking the necessary actions to stop it." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also below Observations: The Operation in Gaza - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Abbas: Hamas Could Have Avoided Gaza Raids - Alaa Shahine
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday in Cairo that Hamas could have avoided the Israeli attacks on Gaza. "We talked to them and we told them 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop' so that we could have avoided what happened," he said. (Reuters)
        See also Egypt: Hamas Responsible for Israeli Response - Roee Nahmias
    At a press conference Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit held Hamas responsible for Israel's military action in Gaza, saying that "Egypt warned for a long time, and someone who ignores warnings is responsible for the outcome." Earlier, Gheit had said, "we suspected this would happen. Hamas didn't stop shooting rockets at Israel." (Ynet News)
        See also Egypt: Hamas Denying Gaza Wounded Treatment in Egypt - Alaa Shahine
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Sunday that Hamas was not allowing Palestinians wounded in Israel's attacks on Gaza to cross into Egypt for treatment. "We are waiting for the wounded Palestinians to cross. They are not being allowed to cross," he said. Asked who was to blame, he said: "Ask the party in control on the ground in Gaza." Hamas has been in control in Gaza since June 2007. (Reuters)
  • Palestinian Rocket Falls Short, Kills Girls in Gaza - Sheera Frenkel
    Two Palestinian girls died Friday when militants in Gaza bombarded southern Israel with homemade rockets and mortars, one of which fell short and hit the victims' home. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Three Top Hamas Officers Killed in Airstrikes on Gaza - Yoav Stern
    Three senior Hamas officers were killed in the Israeli air raid on Gaza on Saturday: Tawfik Jabber, commander of Hamas' police force; his adjutant, Ismail al-Ja'abri, commander of the defense and security directorate; and Abu-Ahmad Ashur, Hamas' Gaza central district governor. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Netivot; One Israeli Killed, Five Wounded - Ilana Curiel
    Beber Vaaknin, 58, was killed and five other Israelis were wounded after a rocket fired from Gaza hit an apartment building in Netivot. At least 10 rockets were fired toward Netivot. (Ynet News)
        See also Video: Rocket Attack on Netivot (YouTube)
        See also Palestinian Rockets Hit Ashdod, Ashkelon
    Two rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday exploded near Ashdod, about 38 kilometers from Gaza. At least three rockets exploded in Ashkelon. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Map: The Increasing Range of Palestinian High-Trajectory Fire Against Israeli Cities and Towns (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Must Defend Its Citizens - Amos Oz
    The systematic bombing of the citizens in Israel's towns and cities is a war crime and a crime against humanity. The State of Israel must defend its citizens. It is obvious to everyone that the Israeli government does not wish to enter Gaza; the government would rather continue the ceasefire that Hamas violated and finally revoked. But the suffering of the citizens surrounding Gaza cannot go on.
        Hamas is actually eager to cause Israel to embark on a military operation. The Arab world will rally together around the atrocious sights that Al-Jazeera will air from Gaza, and the world court of public opinion will rush to accuse Israel of war crimes. This is the same court of public opinion that remains unmoved by the systematic bombing of population centers in Israel. Hamas' calculation is simple, cynical and evil: If innocent Israelis are killed - good. If innocent Palestinians are killed - even better. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel Tries to Change the Rules of the Game in Gaza - Ron Ben-Yishai
    What started in Gaza on Saturday is a limited move aimed at securing a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel on terms that are favorable to Israel. These include: An end to mortar and rocket attacks; an end to terror attacks across the Gaza fence; serious negotiations on the release of Gilad Shalit; and an end to Hamas' military buildup. The means for securing these objectives is shock treatment - literally. This way, Hamas will no longer be initiating and setting the pace of developments, while Israel makes it clear that it would respond "disproportionally" every time Israeli residents are hurt. At this time, we are not talking about an attempt to topple Hamas' regime in Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • A Time to Fight - Editorial
    On Friday, a Hamas spokesman made Israel the following proposal: You keep the stream of humanitarian aid and supplies flowing into Gaza and we will keep launching rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. It was an offer Israel had little choice but to refuse. On Saturday, Israel finally told Hamas that it would not be bled, slowly, to death. The Islamists need to decide whether they want to go down in flames or are prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with control over Gaza.
        That over 200 Palestinians have been killed compared to only one Israeli leads some journalists to conclude that Israel is inherently in the wrong. If one Jew is killed, we get very little piety. If, heaven forbid, an Israeli kindergarten was to take a direct hit - Israel might, temporarily, gain the sympathy of news anchors from Paris to London to Madrid. At that price we would rather forgo their sympathy.
        We wonder how an international community that can't bring itself to explicitly support Israel's operation against the most intransigent of Muslim fanatics expects to play a positive role in facilitating peace in this region. Hamas must be stopped. And the civilized world must help stop it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    The Operation in Gaza - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Prime Minister's Office)

    • For seven years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the south have been suffering from missiles being fired at them. Life in the south under missile barrages had become unbearable. Israel did everything in its power to fulfill the conditions of the calm in the south and enable normal life for its citizens. The quiet that we offered was met with shelling.
    • No country can countenance such a reality. The lives of our citizens are not forfeit. In recent days, it became clear that Hamas is bent on conflict. In such a situation we had no alternative but to respond. We do not rejoice in battle, but neither will we be deterred from it.
    • The operation in Gaza is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south. This is liable to take time and each one of us must be patient so that we can complete the mission. We want to restore the quiet and the tranquility and give the residents of the south the ability to live the normal lives that every country provides its citizens.
    • On Thursday I made it clear to the residents of Gaza [in an interview on Al-Arabiya television] that we are not acting against them and that we have no intention of punishing them for the actions of Hamas. We will see to the needs of the population in Gaza and will do our utmost to prevent a humanitarian crisis that will impinge upon residents' lives.
    • Residents of Gaza, we are not your enemies and we are not fighting against you. This terrorist organization has brought disaster to two peoples. Israel is not fighting the Palestinian people but the Hamas terrorist organization that has taken upon itself to act against the residents of Israel.

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